- Ada, Oklahoma

Local News

January 20, 2014

Gay marriage ruling prompts opposing reactions

Ada — Melanie McKinney first heard the news on a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon, but the East Central University student had trouble believing what she was reading.

Then her reaction was, “You’re kidding me,” she said. Those who felt the opposite had similar reactions.

Here’s how Federal Court Judge Terrence Kern reached his decision that would make the ban against gay marriage in Oklahoma illegal:

“Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and our consent to be governed,” said Kern.

“It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions. Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights,” he concluded.

McKinney and he partner, Hannah Shell, also an ECU student, were ecstatic over the ruling.

McKinney said when she realized what had happened she called Shell. “I was so excited she couldn’t understand what I was saying over the phone,” she said.

“If I could say something to Oklahomans who were not as elated about the ruling as me,” McKinney continued, “I would try to explain that, at least for Hannah and I, what we have is special. Our marriage isn't our marriage for this decade, like many serial-monogamous people we know.

“I can argue that the bond we have is comparable to the strongest bonds on this Earth.”

Dr. Pat Kilby, pastor at First Baptist Church, expressed deep concerns about the ruling.

“I am disappointed but not surprised by the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Terence C. Kern to strike down Oklahoma’s ban on same sex marriage,” he said in a prepared statement. “In his ruling, Kern argues the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights. Judge Kern assumes that homosexuality is a basic human right, not a choice. I believe the Bible is the Word of God and speaks to the fact that homosexuality is condemned behavior.

“Those who practice homosexuality do so of their own will,” Kilby continued. “Since the majority of Oklahomans believe that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman, I believe the rights of the majority should be upheld. Basic human rights should always be protected but when the moral opinions of a few are mistaken for human rights they should not be forced upon the majority.”

Kern, in making his decision, discounted well-known arguments of those advocating the ban.

He said the argument that protecting the sanctity of marriage was weakened by the high divorce rate in Oklahoma.

Speaking of the argument that procreation is one reason for heterosexual marriage, Kern said heterosexual couples who get a marriage license don’t have to commit to having children. Penalizing gays  for not being able to procreate, he said, would be discriminatory.

Pastor Mickey Keith of Life Community Church expressed alarm over the political power of a relatively small number of individuals.

“For a small percentage of the population who fit that description, they have a tremendous amount of power,” Keith said.

“It’s alarming to me as a Christian and as a pastor, but I’m not surprised. I’m watching state-by-state this becoming the law of the land.”

Christine Pappas, a political science professor at East Central and advisor for the on-campus Gay-Straight Alliance, praised the judge for what she called sound reasoning, saying it is a major step forward for proponents of gay marriage.

Shell was just as effusive in her reaction to the judge’s ruling as her partner.

“I know that our love is no less pure or wholesome, or worthwhile, than anyone else’s love on this earth, and now I feel like our state government is recognizing that fact,” she said.

“The fact that one district judge is willing to stand up and recognize that our love is equal, gives me hope for the future.”

The day after Oklahoma voters passed the ban on gay marriage in 2004, a gay couple formerly of Ada, Sharon Baldwin and Mary Bishop, one an ECU professor, challenged the law, which Kern struck down more than nine years later. Both are now editors at The Tulsa World and are planning an Oklahoma wedding.

The couple was quoted in other newspapers as saying they've been together as a couple for 17 years.

The marriage ban against gays remains in effect because of the caveat the judge included in his ruling. which said it is not to go into effect until the question has worked its way through the court system.

The question will undoubtedly go to the U.S. Court of Appeals, possibly in connection with the Utah marriage ban, which is expected to be heard soon in 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

If Keren’s decision is upheld at that level, it would probably be appealed to the the U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Kern, of course, could always be reversed in a higher court.

Keith and Kilby both remind the public that more than 70 percent of Oklahomans voted for the ban on gay marriage almost 10 years ago.

“I think the judge overstepped his judicial power here, I feel like when three-fourths of Oklahomans support a law, for a judge to strike it down, is way over stretching (his) authority,” Keith said.

Though Keith points to the Scriptures as his source, he said, “I don’t want to be mean-spirited about it. We are instructed to love one another.”

“I think it’s inevitable it’s going to be overturned,” said retired and part-time Presbyterian pastor Buddy Baltimore of Ada.

“A part of me says no,” Baltimore said, speaking of gay marriage. “The Bible part of me says it’s wrong, but there’s only one person who can condemn it. God and Jesus.”

As to where the issue goes from here, Baltimore thought for a moment, then replied, “I really don’t know. I’m not in a place to make that kind of judgment.”

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